A number of union members are unhappy that the negotiations with the major Hollywood studios that broke off Friday night were sidetracked by issues secondary to the one the writers see as central: how they will be paid when their work shows up on the Internet.
That could undermine the writers' leverage, because the directors might not make all the demands that the writers have made. The writers don't want another union to set their agenda.
Among the writers urging fresh talks are some of the guild's most powerful members, those responsible for the day-to-day operations of popular TV shows, which are quickly running out of original episodes.
One group of those show runners met with guild officials Tuesday to air their concerns, and another is set to meet with them today. Members of the negotiating committee plan to meet with strikers on the picket lines, hoping to calm fears.
Jeff Hermanson, assistant executive director of the Writers Guild of America, West, said the guild had not received many complaints from members and accused the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers of trying to create the impression that there was a schism.
"This is a democratic organization in which we value the input and opinions of our members," Hermanson said. "When the issues are explained to them, they understand this is a ploy by the AMPTP in an effort to divide us."
For its part, the directors guild has scheduled a meeting tonight at its headquarters on Sunset Boulevard to brief members on the leadership's negotiating strategy. That guild is expected to inform the studios as early as Thursday when it will be ready to begin formal talks, according to one senior studio executive.
The directors, whose contract expires June 30, have historically sealed their deals early. They have been waiting in deference to the striking writers.
Now, with the writers and studios deadlocked, the directors are expected to move forward.
Last week, more than 300 writer-directors, who are caught in the middle as members of both unions, urged leaders of the directors guild to continue holding off until writers could resolve their dispute.
The writers and studios haven't scheduled new talks. The climate seems to be more poisonous than ever.
On Monday, for example, each side accused the other of lying about its respective position and what had triggered last week's impasse.
Friday's breakdown came after the studios made good on their threat to stop talking if the writers didn't take off the table half a dozen issues the studios saw as nonstarters. They included a demand to extend the union's jurisdiction to writers of animated movies and reality TV shows and to include in the contract a so-called sympathy strike measure that would allow writers to honor the picket lines of other unions without fear of reprisals from their employers.
Hermanson noted that the issues the studios demanded be removed from the table included one that was key to the writers' proposal on Internet residuals. He said that the studios negotiated in bad faith and that the writers refused to give in to an ultimatum.
He and guild leaders complained that the studios' "new economic partnership" proposals were only modest improvements over what they originally offered Nov. 4, the day before the walkout.
Studios maintained they made a generous offer, which they valued at about $130 million, a figure disputed by the guild.
"These talks broke down over the WGA's insistence on jurisdictional demands, that everything has to do with expanding the power of the union's organizing and very little has to do with the needs and demands of working writers," said Jesse Hiestand, studio alliance spokesman.